Monday, September 02, 2019

101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die

There are many books that tell you what to do. Often these take the form of must-do lists, or must-see lists or must-read lists, all of which one is required to experience before one’s death. Well, obviously, it’s going to be damn hard to do any of them after they start chucking the clods down onto the coffin (apart from Dig your way to freedom after your premature burial, which is number 101 in 101 Things To Do For Nutters)1. But I suppose what they mean is these are things you have to set out to do before age, infirmity, poverty and an ASBO or two render them permanently out of reach. And so we have (as any quick search on the internet will throw up2) 101 Things To Buy Before You Die, 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die, 101 Places To Have Sex Before You Die, 101 Movies You Must See Before You Die, 101 Exercises To Try Before You Die, 101 Artists You Must Listen To Before You Die3, 101 Places To Visit Before You Die and, of course, 101 Things To Do Before You Die (loads of versions of this by various authors). And there are many more.

All these instructional books (instructional in the sense of giving you, the reader, instructions rather than teaching you something you worthwhile) are about positive actions enjoined upon you with that inevitable, but uncertain, countdown to obliteration ticking away4 in the background. You may seize upon them gladly, relieved to have the problem of what to do in your remaining years solved by an expert. You may well chomp your way through many exotic dishes, visit strange and wonderful places (perhaps photographing yourself tastefully standing in front of one or two), frequent the world’s great museums, theatres and burlesque shows, stagger happily from one obscure distillery to the next, peer through the foaming waves as your yacht escapes the unforgiving rocks of Cape Horn or don dark glasses, military uniform and a sub-machine gun whilst posing with the world’s nastiest dictators. And good luck to you. But you will still die, you know, and when you do all that effort, all that chasing around to tick off one more thing will count for nothing at all: because, as they say, you can’t take it with you.

This series is not about any of that. It is the reverse. It is a list of all those things that I have absolutely no intention of doing, things that I will cross the road to avoid, if necessary. Listing them is a great relief because this is one bucket list I can tick off at precisely the same time as I enumerate it. You are entirely free to adopt this list for yourself or, perhaps using it as a mental springboard, concoct one of your own. Whatever you do you will have the pleasure, the radiant joy, of being able to say “I have triumphed, my bucket list is complete, and everything on this list has not been done, is not being done and never will be done”. You might go on to add “and never should be done by any right-minded individual” but that is going too far. Things to avoid before dying is a highly personal subject, after all, and whilst we may recoil at visiting the world’s top abattoirs, there are bound to be some for whom the wearing of a yet another blood-stained overall is the height of the sublime. Do not, I beg you, take my list too personally. I am not seeking to belittle or degrade anyone.5 If I can inspire you to ignore one place, one action, one meal, one event or one experience and to do so with the confidence of one who does not give a stuff about what people who make bucket lists think then my efforts will not have been in vain.

It is conceivable that you may wish to view these pieces, my personal list of things to ignore, as a challenge. “He scorns to do them” you may think “But I shall do them, do them well and prove him wrong”. You are welcome to see it in this light and I look forward to reading your book of 101 Things I Did Just Because Someone Else Didn’t. Please do not solicit my advice in going about this task. I am not writing about things that I have done and wish I had left well alone. These are things I have not done, do not want to do and will not do.

The series begins shortly ….

  1. This might be my next award-winning blockbuster
  2. Hopefully you will not be doing the same as you contemplate this list.
  3. I think this should be interpreted as meaning musicians. I doubt if listening to a load of painters droning on about the best way to scrape oil paint off a jumper is that riveting.
  4. Countdowns don't tick. They count down. [Ed] 
  5. This may not be strictly true.  

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